Trae Young led the Hawks in scoring with 31 points and 16 assists while John Collins enjoyed an almost perfect night, as he shot 12-of-13 from the field (starting 10-for-10) on his way to 28 points and 11 rebounds.
For the Hornets, Terry Rozier poured out a career-high 40 points while his backcourt partner, Devonte’ Graham, added 27 points and 10 assists.
As always, if you missed out on how this game unfolded, you can catch up here...
Whew... A pretty wild game, you’d have to say.
Offense was definitely the name of the game in this one, with both teams firing on all cylinders. So much so that the lowest shooting percentage for the Hawks at halftime was their free throw percentage (55%), with the Hawks shooting 66% from the field and 58% from behind the arc on 11-of-19 shooting en route to a season-high 21 three-pointers.
This high-level of offense continued, pretty much, all of the way through, but the Hawks were left searching for a bucket with under a minute to go after a three-pointer from Rozier gave the Hornets a one point lead.
After coming up with a stop, the Hawks come quickly the other way through Young, who draws the defense, allowing him to lob to Collins to give the Hawks the lead with 20 seconds to go:
The Hawks don’t score a ton of fast break points and plays like this where Young quickly pushes the ball intrigue me because — with Young’s ability to make the defense panic, as he did here — the Hawks should definitely score more than 12.9 fast break points per game with the respective abilities of Young and Collins (they scored eight last night).
Out of the resulting Hornets timeout, Devote’ Graham draws the foul on Cam Reddish on the drive to the rim, giving Graham the opportunity to take the lead from the line with five seconds remaining:
I thought it was pretty telling at the time that Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce elected not to use his coach’s challenge on this call when the natural instinct — a foul committed at the end of the fourth quarter with a chance for the opponent to win the game from the line — would’ve been to use it in that spot. It would’ve been a wasted challenge. That hasn’t stopped other coach’s from doing it anyways, but Pierce kept his challenge close to his chest and that came in handy later in the evening.
After Graham knocked down both free throws to give the Hornets the lead, the Hawks draw a break as one of Charlotte’s Martin twins commits the foul on Young, giving the Hawks the chance to win the game at the line.
Young is usually clutch in these scenarios but splits the pair of free throws, tying the game and Miles Bridges’ hero-heave is off and to overtime we go:
This is the first instance I can remember where Young has missed a clutch free throw, which says a lot in itself.
Young then tried to make up for his miss by taking over the first overtime period, attempting six shots (considerably more than any other Hawk in overtime) and scoring seven points in the first overtime period.
Fast-forwarding in overtime, the Hawks do a great job to force the Hornets into an extremely rare turnover and can take the lead with minimal time remaining. Young’s subsequent floater is missed, however, and the Hornets have the opportunity to take the lead themselves:
On a different night, there’s a good chance that floater from Young drops, but if there was a night for it to not fall, it would’ve been Monday night.
However, this game changed late in the first overtime period and it wasn’t through what any player did, but through Pierce.
With 2.7 seconds remaining, the Hornets are inbounding the ball after the timeout with the chance to win the game.
Initially, the Treveon Graham is called for a foul on Rozier as the overtime buzzer sounds. The play was reviewed but was reviewed for the amount of time that should be put back on the clock after the foul called, not for the foul itself. It’s at this time where Pierce decides to use his coach’s challenge, and successfully overturned the call as Rozier is called for the hook on Graham — flipping what would’ve surely been game-winning Hornets free throws to one more chance for the Hawks to win this game:
A huge victory for the coach’s challenge (especially with the Hawks emerging with the win) but a big win for Pierce too, who held onto his challenge when he could’ve used it in a number of spots — Dewayne Dedmon in particular was imploring Pierce to challenge a foul called in the third quarter, Dedmon’s fourth of the game (who would eventually foul out in the fourth quarter) — but Pierce bit his lip and held firm, and it payed off.
“The confusion... when they went to review, they were reviewing whether there was still time on the clock,” said Pierce of the review postgame. “The foul, we thought, occurred when Treveon was on the floor and, you know, (the) guy’s on the floor and he trips over him, you call the foul and whether or not there’s time. I thought they went and checked and then changed why he called the foul. He said he called the foul on knee-to-knee contact at the beginning of the drive. The whistle wasn’t blown until the end of the drive.
“Great job by our arena people, they put the review up there and we’re able to see it and you’re able to see that he hooks him before the knee-to-knee contact. Once he explained to me what foul he called, I said ‘Well, the hook occurred before the contact, so you need to go review that.’ My coaching staff was on it. They said if they called it a foul, challenge the foul to say there is no foul and then I was able to look at it and see the hook. You put it in his ear, he’s got to look at it and he’s got to make a definitive decision on what happened.”
With one second put back on the clock, the Hawks get a decent look with a floater from Young but, again, the floater just doesn’t fall:
To be fair, this may have come after the buzzer anyways. NBA.com’s play-by-play doesn’t register a shot from Young to end overtime, nor did the miss seem to be added to his total field goal attempts. So, the fact that Young missed this shot matters less now, if that is indeed the case.
To second overtime we go.
The Hawks appeared to take superiority (I use that term loosely) after a dunk from Reddish puts the Hawks up by three points with 33 seconds to go:
A nice cut from Reddish on that possession and authoritative finish — always encouraging to see from Reddish — to force the Hornets into a timeout.
The Hornets responded with a huge three from Rozier despite the solid defensive effort of Reddish to move with Rozier and contest the shot:
A classic instance of ‘Good D, better O’ — that’s just a great shot made by Rozier, on a night where he obviously had it going (as one would expect for a new career-high).
After the Hawks’ timeout, a change of pace as Kevin Huerter handles the ball heading up the court. As Young comes towards the ball, Martin comes with him and as Rozier tries to deny the ball, Huerter spins and breaks free down the lane, collapses the defense and finds De’Andre Hunter, who draws the foul on the three-point shot:
In live-action, watching for the first time, some people weren’t sure about this call but you can clearly see the contact made on Hunter’s right hand — no doubt that the correct call was made.
Hunter duly dispatches all three free throws to give the Hawks a crucial three point lead with the Hornets now needing a three to send it to a third overtime.
The Hornets load the wing in an attempt to free up Rozier but Reddish is there to switch onto Rozier but his challenge isn’t that effective, clearly worried about being called for a foul as Rozier falls to the ground after what was ultimately a good look (it looked much better on replay with another angle) from Rozier:
Big rebound from Collins as he gets to the floor to secure the rebound, and the Hawks ice the game from the free throw line to secure a much needed victory.
The Hawks had to navigate a firing Hornets offense that made up 19 three-pointers on 48 attempts and committed just five turnovers in 58 minutes, which is truly remarkable.
“I thought I had the play of the year drawn up,” opened Pierce postgame in humorous fashion. “Trae just couldn’t get that floater to go down, so you guys are here late tonight.”
“Good win for our guys,” Pierce continued. “A lot of late-game situations and teaching moments. Being able to play that crew down the stretch was fun. That’s a tough team over there that’s fighting and competing. Those two guards are extremely, extremely gifted and talented. They shot the three-ball well. They didn’t turn it over. Our guys fought through a lot of just weird situations: uncharacteristic missed free throw by Trae, him not getting those two floaters to go down, his signature shot. But our guys were very resilient tonight and it was fun to see.”
As has been the case on a few occasions this season, there were big plays made by the rookies — Reddish with the cut and dunk off of the find from Young, and Hunter drawing that foul on the three and stepping up and knocking down all three free throws.
“I thought the reaction by Cam to slash and get that pass from Trae at the end of the shot clock just showed - you know - you’re seeing these guys figure each other out a little bit,” said Pierce postgame. “They’re switching everything in the pick-and-rolls and we’re trying to figure out how to get John going. It’s hard when they switch and they can just match up, but just to make those type of reactions... They overplay Kevin. Instead of pulling the basketball out, he makes an aggressive play. He drives it, kicks it out to D. Hunter and D. Hunter has the guts to step up and take that three and gets fouled. You just put them in a bad situation. All of our guys made plays down the stretch which was important.”
We looked at that big rebound from Collins after that missed Rozier three in the second overtime... Pierce attributed the Hawks’ rebounding as a huge reason the Hawks were able to get the job done in second overtime, and out-rebounded the Hornets by 18.
“I think for the most part, rebounding,” said Pierce postgame on pulling the victory in second overtime. “Kevin comes up with a huge rebound down the stretch. They missed a couple close shots but we out-rebounded these guys by 18. That’s a big, important part of the game when you’re trying to close out, just to not give them any easy opportunities and not foul and be able to manage the game on the other end. I think it’s extremely important.
“We turned the ball over a lot tonight. We missed a lot of free throws, which is something you really have to do with closeout games, but rebounding was very much in our advantage. De’Andre Hunter, I think Melvin Hunt challenged him to get 15 (rebounds), jokingly. He ends up with 11 but we needed every single one of them.”
Pierce hits on a couple of items in that quote — not exclusive to rebounding — but he mentioned Huerter, who had a couple of big rebounds (and I don’t mean that in terms of clutch rebounds) in this game — something that Huerter is capable of doing.
Here is the one Pierce referenced in the second overtime:
Pierce mentioned turnovers — the Hawks had 16 on the night leading to 19 Charlotte points. That’s not awful for this team in 58 minutes but I think when you compare it the Hornets’ five turnovers and Atlanta’s six points off of those, it’s a lot.
The missed free throws obviously hurt as the Hawks shot 16-of-27 from the line.
“Weird night from the line,” said Collins postgame. “All I can say about that is we’re usually pretty efficient there. We have guys on this team that can shoot. People did step up when their number was called, especially from the young guys. We expect a lot from them and a lot is put on their plates. They’re stepping up.”
That free throw stat is always going to be shine that little more when the game goes into two overtime periods/the close nature of this game. That’ll be something the Hawks have to clean up.
Collins’ game obviously stands out above everyone else’s on the Hawks last night with his almost perfect night, making his first 10 shots. The attention will go, rightly, in that offensive direction but I also enjoyed some of Collins’ defensive challenges at the rim last night.
In fact, last night, opponents shot just 4-of-20 when guarded by Collins last night.
Exhibit A, as Collins’ challenge and verticality forces Jalen McDaniels to adjust his shot and force the miss:
Exhibit B, as Bridges drives toward the rim:
Pierce was asked a question postgame about the Hawks — as a whole — defensively, and his answer was interesting and worth sharing, and Collins is one of many Hawks mentioned.
“Not there,” said Pierce on where the Hawks are defensively. “In terms of individuals, the biggest challenge is ‘How do we find that competitive spirit every night?’ And each guy has a different concern.
“Kevin (Huerter), can we be more physical when he’s guarding guards, like tonight with Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier?”
“Cam is tremendous but when he’s gambling too much, we want him to be in a contain type of mode.”
“D-Hunt (De’Andre Hunter), I think he does a great job of containing. I want him to be a little riskier. If him and Cam can balance out each other, I think we’re on the right page.”
“Trae has got to put up that consistent fight. Teams want to put him in pick-and-rolls and they want to try and post him, and his challenge is to make it tough every single time. I try tell him to be pesky, I try tell him to fight but he’s got to provide that resistance all the time.”
“John has made tremendous strides. Because we play him at the five a lot and he’s a guy that we’re trying to keep down the floor a lot, he’s become more of a rim protector and it’s his challenge. He does a great job with the verticality, he’s got more blocks this year, probably double than what he had last year in less games. It’s a challenge of him being more of a rim protector when he’s at that five-position.”
“But they’re all making strides. It’s always going to be a long way for each guy to develop that consistent, tenacious defensive mentality because they’re skilled, talented players that have been called to do offensive things for most of their career, and we’re just trying to challenge them to be a little bit better each and every day.”
It’s a great answer from Pierce, taking the time to talk about some of the young players on the team and what their defensive step looks like.
With Collins, to tie in the above, it has been challenging at the rim and he did a great job of that last night. It’ll fly under the radar given his near perfect game from the field but that’s been one of the things that has made Collins’ crazy run of efficiency and scoring more impressive is that he’s has been contributing defensively too with his improved challenges/contests and his shot blocking.
One additional thing to mention with regard Collins: it would be refreshing to see the Hawks go to Collins a little more in late-game situations, especially last night given how things weren’t falling for Young, and Collins (almost literally) couldn’t miss.
Obviously, the ball goes into the hands of Young as a primary option, but it didn’t seem to go to anyone else in overtime very often (bar that one play out of the timeout when Huerter handled and then the play developed into Hunter’s three point foul). It was strange, because as soon as overtime began, no one else looked like they were going to get a shot and this wasn’t the case in the fourth quarter.
Following the game, Young offered a quote that could explain the strategy to some degree.
“I put us in that situation,” Young said. “So I have to do my best to get us out of it and try to help get us a win. So I was just trying to do my best to help us do that.”
Young took nine shots in the two overtime periods. The next highest when it came to field goal attempts in the overtime periods was two, coming from Collins, Huerter and Reddish. Yes, you want the ball to obviously be in Young’s hands (he did shoot 5-of-9) but him taking seven more shots than any of his teammates in two overtime periods — especially on a night where Collins cannot miss — I think is something to potentially examine. From there, Young having 16 assists on the game — an obviously spectacular statistic overall — is not an explanation for this, simply because Young had only one of those assists in the two overtime periods.
I’m not saying Young shouldn’t shoot, so don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m definitely saying Collins should’ve had more than two shot attempts in two overtime periods, and the responsibility for that splits between multiple parties. Collins attempted 10 shots in the first two and half quarters and finished with only 13 in a game that extended for 58 minutes.
All in all, a good win for the Hawks and one they needed after a tough week last week with the two disappointing losses to the Grizzlies sandwiched around a loss to the Wizards.
The Hawks (20-46) continue their three game homestand on Wednesday night when they take on the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena.
Certainly an opportunity to add a second victory and build momentum as the season enters its final stretch.
Until next time...